Rudolph Isley, Isley Bros. Co-Founder, ‘Shout!’ Co-Writer, Dies at 84


Rudolph Isley, one of the founding members of the seminal soul and funk band the Isley Brothers died Wednesday at his home in Olympia Fields, Illinois. He was 84; no cause of death was officially cited, although TMZ, which first reported his death, said that a heart attack was suspected.

“There are no words to express my feelings and the love I have for my brother,” Rudolph’s brother and Isley Brothers co-founder Ronald said in a statement to Variety. (The brothers, with Rudolph on the left, are pictured above.)

The group’s relatively low profile belies their status as pioneers of rock and roll: Their hits across several decades include such oft-covered hits as “Shout!” (cowritten by Rudolph), “Twist and Shout,” “It’s Your Thing,” “That Lady” and many others. Rudolph also famously co-wrote “Testify,” a 1964 track featuring a young, up-and-coming young guitarist named Jimi Hendrix. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 — by Little Richard, no less — and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2022.

Rudolph sued Ronald — the longtime lead vocalist of the still-active group with guitarist Ernie — earlier this year over lost profits and Ronald’s tight hold over the group’s trademark, which seemed to reflect his longtime status as “The Quiet Isley.” Despite that title, Rudolph was the smoothest of Isley singers and its sharpest dresser (he was originally responsible for the band’s furs, canes and wide-brimmed hat era of the 1970s). Rudolph also shared lead vocals with Ronald and Kelly on “Fight the Power” and “Livin’ in the Life,” and took the lead on latter-day Isley cuts such as  “You Still Feel the Need” and “It’s a Disco Night (Rock Don’t Stop).”

Born on April 1, 1939, in Cincinnati, Rudolph cofounded the Isley Brothers as a gospel quartet in 1954 with O’Kelly, Ronnie and Vernon. Although Vernon was killed in a bicycle accident in 1955, the group continued as a trio, moving to New York in 1957 and signing with RCA Records two years later. After the release of their first smash single “Shout,” the extended family moved from Cincinnati to the New Jersey subburbs of Englewood and Teaneck — the latter forming the base of the family businesses, including their iconic T-Neck label, which was formed in 1966.

Sticking with the Isley Brothers through the recording and release of 1989’s “Spend the Night,” Rudolph left the band to get away from the music industry while still mourning the death of Kelly Isley three years prior. Becoming a Christian minister, Rudolph would occasionally join the Isley Brothers in song and on stage, althoug he did not participate in their inductions into the Rock and Roll or Songwriters Halls of Fame.

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